Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dickens wasn't referring to these places

The great and long- neglected Philadelphia- Boston sports rivalry has taken yet another turn.

The fortunes of the cities' baseball teams have gone in reverse the last week, as the Phillies have surged to cut the seemingly insurmountable NL East lead of the Mets to 1 1/2 games, while the Red Sox have faltered to drop their seemingly insurmountable AL East lead over the Yankees to 2 1/2 games. Meanwhile, the football teams have had opposite starts, with the Patriots looking great in wins over a pair of 2006 playoff teams, while the Eagles have looked feckless in troubling losses to the mediocre Packers and Redskins.

Top it all off with the fact that the Celtics are entering the NBA season with a veteran squad with hopes of making the Finals while the Sixers have a serious talent deficiency and will be hard-pressed to win more than 25 games, and you have all the polarization that fuels rivalries. The only thing that's missing is direct competition.

With the exception of the NBA, where the Celtics and Sixers have one of the league's most storied and historically intense rivalries, it's unlikely that Boston and Philadelphia teams will meet during any given season. In baseball, the Red Sox and Phillies are scheduled to meet once every three years, and in football, it's once every four years for the Patriots and Eagles. Of course, there was Super Bowl XXXIX. And before that ... well, again aside from several Celtics-Sixers tilts, you have to go back all the way to 1915, when the Red Sox, led by St. Mary's College of California alumni Duffy Lewis and Harry Hooper, took down the Phillies 4-1 in the World Series. That came on the heels of a Boston Braves-Philadelphia Athletics World Series in 1914, a reminder that regular season meetings were frequent when both cities were two-team towns until the 1950s. The Braves swept the A's in that one, a harbinger of bad Braves karma to come.

So when has Philly beaten Boston for a title? Uh, never. That's something that would be nice to change if/when the Phillies and Red Sox meet in the World Series, so that when these teams do have their rare interleague matchup, Sox fans don't take over Citizens Bank like the did at the Vet back in 2003. This was when my buddy Alan, no Yankees lover, decided he couldn't take the side of the Red Sox, either, in the Most Overhyped Rivalry No One Used To Care About since the Duke-UNC rivalry. I'm not sure where I stand on this ... my hatred for the Yankees has reached levels that almost rival that of my utter disdain for the Chicago Bulls during the heyday of Pistons-Bulls wrestle-mania ... but I think that there's enough time between meetings to bottle up vitriol for the occasion without having to actively root against Boston teams on a daily basis.

Except, of course, the Celtics, who I will always despise because I'm a Pistons fan regardless of my Philly basketball ties (of which there are none, aside from gratefulness that the Sixers started sucking just when they did so Larry Brown would jump ship and come win a championship in Detroit. That was a nice gesture. And also Chris Webber last season. He came in handy, too. It's nice not to have to worry about keeping a D-League affiliate around when Joe Dumars can pretty much just call up whoever he wants. Say ... Andre Iguodala would provide at the very least give the Pistons some pretty good depth, wouldn't he? ...)

It's fascinating though ... imagine if two other cities with such intrinsic geographic and historical ties met as sparingly on the sports fields as much as Philly and Boston do. There would be something missing without regular Detroit-Chicago, Pittsburgh-Cincinnati and Los Angeles-San Francisco games.

So I'm rooting for a Philadelphia- Boston World Series. If there's not one, we won't have to wait too much longer, since the Eagles are scheduled to travel to New England to play Nov. 25. I'd be a lot more excited about this one, but ... I did mention the Patriots are 2-0 and the Eagles are 0-2, right?

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